A bag of large beautiful lemons in my kitchen usually leads to a batch of limoncello with the peel; and a batch of lemonade with the juice. Not this time. This time, memories of a creamy pasta imbued with aromatic lemon I had a couple of summers ago in The Hague in a trattoria called Vino e Cucina led to a different approach to use up these big beautiful lemons.

Leafing through my precious Preserving Italy: Canning, Curing, Infusing, and Bottling Italian Flavors and Traditions by Domenica Marchetti — a best-ever present that contains so many of my Italian favorites, from mostarda to porchetta salt to even guanciale — the book opened on a recipe for Spaghettini al Limone.

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Reading through the recipe I registered that using the zest of three lemons to make lemon oil would leave me three skinless lemons to juice. A couple ripe peaches on the kitchen counters winked at me, it seemed: “We like lemon too!”

Waste not want not, in one day cooking in my kitchen we made lemon oil (page 153), using a portion of that oil plus the zest leftover from the oil (deviating from the recipe here) to make Spaghettini al Limone (page 188), both from Marchetti’s book. And the naked, skinless lemons? We juiced them, picked basil from the garden and mashed up two very ripe peaches: Lemon Basil Peach sorbet (my version) in the making.

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Pasta Al Limone

Adapted from Preserving Italy

  • 1/4 cup (homemade) lemon oil
  • zest of 3 lemons, julienned
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pound pasta (instead of thin spaghettini I like to use thick pappardelle)
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese (or Parmiggiano Reggiano)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Heat a large pot of water with a pinch of salt. As it is coming to a boil, heat the lemon oil with the lemon zest in a sauce pan over low heat. When it starts to sizzle a little, stir in the cream and bring to a boil. Whisk in the lemon juice, a little at a time. Take off heat and cover to keep warm.

In the meantime, put the pasta in the boiling water and cook according to directions. Drain (reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid). Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the lemon sauce. Toss gently to combine and finish with the grated cheese, herbs and a couple grindings fresh black pepper. If too thick add a couple tablespoons of the reserved pasta water to loosen a little. Divide hot over plates, top with a little more grated cheese and serve immediately.

Lemon Basil Peach Sorbet

  • 3 cups (filtered) water
  • 2 cups raw cane sugar*
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh basil (packed)
  • 1 cup pureed ripe peeled peaches

Bring water and sugar to rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in salt, lemon juice, basil and peach puree. Cover and chill to infuse for a couple of hours (or overnight).

Strain the lemon-basil-peach syrup through a fine-mesh strainer and transfer to a tray. Place in the freezer. Let it freeze but stir regular to mix the ice crystals that are forming.

(alternatively, pour into a chilled bowl of an ice maker and proceed according to directions).

*raw cane sugar doesn’t make for a pretty color but I choose it regardless. Feel free to use granulated white sugar instead!